BY SARAH TEREZ ROSENBLUM
As a kid I loved The Keatons. A fictional family, but unabashedly liberal and loving, they reminded me of my own family, just funnier. Like my dad, Steven Keaton even sported a beard. While Alex was my crush and unlikely fashion muse (baseball shirts, dark Levis and red windbreakers? Check check check.), Elise intrigued me. My best friend’s mother, Barb, was a lesbian, an open secret I wouldn’t discover for a few years. For reasons I couldn’t articulate, Elise reminded me of Barb.
When Meredith Baxter outed herself on the Today show in 2009, I felt as if I’d always known. Whether or not Baxter, married three times, spent her life dodging the obvious or truly came to her lesbianism later in life, her sexual fluidity seems part of a recent trend: celebrities like Cynthia Nixon and Kelly McGillis going gay.
Queer culture vulture and lesbian writer Trish Bendix is one of many women writing on the subject in a new anthology, “Dear John, I Love Jane.” A forthright investigation of female sexuality and personal choice, the book is comprised of essays, some witty, some wrenching, about women leaving men for women.
Bendix, who spoke with Our Town about sexual mutability and Elise’s exodus, will read from the collection at 7:30 p.m., Friday November 12th at Women and Children First.
Our Town Tell us about the anthology.
Trish Bendix Seal Press publishes some of the best feminist and queer books, especially when it comes to collections. Around the time the editors were putting out a call for submissions, there was this craze with Kelly McGillis and Meredith Baxter coming out, so a lot of publications were writing pieces on "the late in life lesbian." I came out at age 20 - not exactly middle age. When I heard about “Dear John, I Love Jane,” I wondered if I'd be the right fit or not, but my essay fits right in amongst the writings from women of all ages and places who assumed they were straight until attraction proved otherwise.
OT Is fluid female sexuality a trend?
TB I'm a firm believer in the Kinsey scale, and females are less likely to have hang ups over their sexual interests or attractions. I don't mean to say every woman is secretly gay, but I do think many people do have the ability to become interested in someone of the same sex. It's whether or not they meet that person or persons and find themselves open to it.
OT How did you get started writing about queer women and pop culture?
TB [In college] I saw Albert Williams on a panel about arts and entertainment reporting, talking about how he got his start writing theater reviews and stories for gay magazines, and it was like a revelation: I can get paid to write about being gay? Writing about queer women and pop culture mixes so much of what I enjoy into one little package. Every lesbian, bisexual or sexually fluid woman has different ideas about how her sexuality fits into her life. We're definitely not a boring community, that's for sure. I'm always intrigued by how we are positioned by the media and pop culture, but also how we see ourselves.
OT So, pop culture, fodder for intellectual exploration or mental bubble gum?
TB A great mix of both! It's so funny how some people are interested in who Samantha Ronson is dating while others would rather read commentary on how "The Kids Are All Right" sets us back forty years. But if I had to choose, I'd really say it's more fodder for intellectual exploration. Why people want to know [about] Samantha's Sapphic rendezvous is a lot more interesting than her actual dalliances.
Bendix reads along with Michelle Renae, and Rachel Smith, with musical guest Bridget Lyons. After party immediately following at Joie de Vine with DJ Chubby Jones.
To find out more about the anthology visit http://www.dearjohnilovejane.com/
A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago's Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually.